Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roses In December

"God gave us memories 
that we might have roses in December"
~ J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922 ~

We met her on moving day, December 1, 2011. Her persistence won our hearts, and against my husband's wishes, she became a daily visitor. I relish the memories of watching her sleep on my son's bed as if she was a lifelong member of our family. "We can't afford to feed one more!" he would say. But he was commuting for work and was gone for the better part of the day. So she came when he left. Then her brother started dropping by. They looked so much alike.

One day we all noticed that she hadn't come that day and hadn't been around for two weeks. Maybe she'd been forbidden to come. Maybe something was wrong.

While I was researching James Crossman Johnson, Uphard and Elizabeth's third child I was startled out of my trance by a knock at the door. A young man stood bent over a huge dog who was straining to get through the crack I'm made between me and them as I slid open the door.

"Sorry! He used to live here!" he said as I closed the door a bit to protect two worried and very curious children who stood beside me.

I really wanted to get back to my research of James. He was born in October of 1845 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Up until the interruption by my neighbor all I knew was that he was born in Cambridge and crossed the Mystic River twice, first to live in Malden where he was five, and then to live in Somerville where I found him at 15.

My neighbor friend asked if I'd seen his black cat. 

"Yes! She came over all the time up until a couple of weeks ago!"
"No, that's his sister. She was hit by a car and killed two weeks ago. Have you seen her brother?"
I pushed the sliding door closed between us, leaving us to grieve the loss of our friend, and slowly made my way back to my research with a heavy heart.

My first thoughts after the shock wore off were of gratitude. We'd had some really fun weeks with the little kitty who cried to come in to eat our food, to sleep and to play. It would have been so easy to shun her, and to shoo! her home. But it felt right to let her in. 

And we were blessed with memories.
No regrets.

We'd been given a gift with no promise of how long it would be there for us to enjoy. Turns out it was a very short time.

I finally knew where our friend had disappeared to. But where was James? I'd done grave, census, marriage and death searches to name a few. said that he belonged to 8 family trees. I checked them all out and they all say that he died on December 23rd, 1862, in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a soldier in the Civil War. Not one of them had documentation. I added that date to his record with no proof as well because I knew I'd want to figure out whether it was true or not.

This much I know. He disappeared after the 1860 census. It was possible that he enlisted in the war at 17 because even young children served as drummer boys, etc. 

His parents were left with the memories of their brief 17 years with him as they saw Christmas come and go and welcome another New Year. It would be their first year without him. His October 7th birthday would come and go without him from now on. All of the holidays and special occasions would notice his absence. Those who mourned his passing would rely heavily on memories created with him to buoy them up through the drought they'd feel without him.

The human mind is a wonderful thing. We are blessed with the capacity to remember unless and until nature decides we've had enough and relieves some of the burden of sorrow and grief.

My lesson this week came from an unexpected source. An innocent little kitty who offered friendship, connection, and, yes, memories. 

I'm left with a question.

How many blessings like that have I literally and figuratively shut the door on?

And how many "roses" will I have collected to help me to enjoy the Decembers that will inevitably come?



  1. Cats are bloggers are like that. Or so it seems. [laughing]

    I'm reminded of Bill Dorman's blog post, What am I chopped liver?


    1. ...and none of us are, but I think that we sometimes forget how fragile and unpredictable life is. All we really have is now! Tanks, Stan!

  2. The mind is a wondrous thing. This is the second time this morning you've been in mine! I'd jotted a note for an outline on the odd critters that have been in my kids had been reminiscing about the flying squirrel .lol...That door to my mind must have opened somewhere along with yours!

    You never know when it's going to slowly creak open or fly open like caught in the wind.

    You made memories your kids and yourself will have pop up for years to come with that one little kitty and the jooy and heartbreak it brought. see what they bring home next...they know your a sofft touch now!

    As Always..


  3. Yes, they know! I didn't mind the visits or the food-sharing. It was when my daughter took off her collar and said that the poor kitty had been kicked out of her house and had nowhere to go! How to tell what's truth or fiction???

  4. Beautiful, Betsy, how you interweave two plots.

    I am touched by this story of "An innocent little kitty who offered friendship, connection, and, yes, memories." So often we walk through our days with our eyes half-shut.

    Here's to more roses in December.

    1. Yes! Here's to accepting the gifts on the other side of the door and the ones right in front of us.We WILL be forever happy to have collected good memories. Even not so good ones can turn comical as the years pass! Thanks Barbara

  5. Very interesting perspective, Betsy. It's my first time visiting your blog, by the way. :) I found you via Sam B's CommentLuv section...such a cool lil plugin.

    I am one of those who feels that life has a way of bringing us lessons and guides in so many unique ways...unfortunately many times we are closed off in some way to receiving that message - or worse, dismissing it because of who the messenger is.

    Thanks for sharing this personal account. I really enjoyed it! :)

    Best regards,
    Cat Alexandra

    1. Thanks, Cat, for the visit AND the comment. I agree, there are SO many mini lessons for e everyday. Sometimes I get really busy, but I always pay attention and log things away until I have time to ponder. Writing for this blog gives me the time and opportunity to see those lessons clearly, and interestingly enough, I usually don't see them UNTIL i start the research AND the writing. Somehow it works that way for me. I feel very blessed! Thanks again and, yes, I love CommentLuv!

  6. You never know when it's going to slowly creak open or fly open like caught in the wind.


What do you think? I'd love to know.